Archive for the Note to Self Category



I’ve been in the situation several times where I want to be able to share my Wifi connection to multiple devices. I know this sounds counter-intuitive, and it’s less and less necessary, frankly. But I’ve had it come up many times:

  • I was in a small hotel in Belgium where they gave one Wifi, with code, per room per day.
  • On airplanes, Gogo can only be used on one device.
  • Boingo and Skype Wifi both work with one computer at a time (as far as I can figure) and both charge by time.

When I first hit that situation in Belgium, we had two laptops which both had ethernet ports, and we had an ethernet cable. So we shared the connection: Laptop 1 logged in via Wifi and used Internet Sharing to share via ethernet to Laptop 2. Laptop 2 connected to the internet via ethernet and used Internet Sharing to share that over Wifi. Worked fine, but we had to keep both laptops on to use our phones, etc. Plus, no current MacBooks have ethernet, so this would necessitate two ethernet adapters today.

My next solution was to carry a small travel router that creates its own Wifi network (great for hotels – I like the TP-LINK TL-WR702N, but there’s a newer model). In a hotel, I plug that into ethernet, and I’m done. On a plane, I connect my MacBook to Wifi with Gogo. Then I connect my USB-ethernet adapter to this router and share from my laptop. This works, but it’s a lot of parts, and uses two USB ports (one for the network and one to power the router).

On to the one I’m pretty happy about, and the main subject of this post: a tiny USB-Wifi adapter from TRENDnet. The model I got is the TEW-648UB. It’s about $8 on Amazon. And it’s really tiny. And it gets all of its power via USB.

The biggest annoyance with this method is that you have to install a driver. I hate that. I wish things were just generic enough to work. This isn’t. And the latest driver seems to be for Mac OS 10.8. But I installed it, and it works just fine. The setup is a little clunky, but not too bad.

With the Wifi adapter method, this TRENDnet adapter can’t create its own network, so it has to be the one to connect to the established Wifi. Then, that gets shared to the laptop’s built-in Wifi via the Internet Sharing control panel. Here are the steps:

  1. Buy the TRENDnet TEW-648UB. Here’s an Amazon link.
  2. Download and install the latest Mac driver (10.8 at the time of this writing).
  3. Use the TRENDnet app to connect to your existing Wifi network.Screen Shot 2015-02-14 at 4.31.16 PMNot the smoothest app, but it works. You might need thisScreen Shot 2015-02-14 at 4.31.40 PM
  4. Make sure it’s connected in your Network System Preference – here’s where you’ll see it. In my pic, it’s NOT connected. Sorry for the bad pic:
    Screen Shot 2015-02-14 at 4.32.15 PM
  5. Once you get that part right, go to your Sharing pane and set it up like this:
    Screen Shot 2015-02-14 at 4.32.50 PM
  6. Once the Share pop-up has the adapter and the To area has the built-in Wifi, then click the box on the left to start the sharing. If you’ve never shared a network from this Mac before, be sure to go into the options to give your new network a good name and a password.
  7. From here, your other computers/tablets/phones should be able to connect to the network you created.

No More Coupons!

I have had a love/hate relationship with the Groupons and LivingSocials and Amazon Locals and everything else. I think I’ve finally gotten over buying coupons to restaurants that I wouldn’t go to without the coupon. But I still can’t help myself from buying coupons for restaurants that I already visit. And, it seems, I need to stop that also.

A few months ago, I bought coupons to AOC on OpenTable – $25 for a $50 credit. I bought three. I read the terms, and knew we couldn’t use them for the Monday night specials, which is when we’ve usually gone recently. But I figured I’d use three anyway. Six months for three coupons? Didn’t seem so wrong, but considering we couldn’t go on Mondays, it was a little much. Five months in, and now I’ve used one.

But that one wasn’t easy. We had a good night to go, so we planned it out, made a reservation, etc. This was a busy night, the day before we were leaving for a trip. But we thought it would be relaxing to have a slow dinner and get a break from our week and set the tone for a trip.

We had a pretty rushed evening, and just made it to the restaurant on time. But five minutes after we sat down I realized, I didn’t have the coupon! Essentially the whole reason for the dinner was to use the coupon. I made the quick decision to run home (literally) grab the coupon, and run back. And I did – it took me about 15 minutes round-trip.

OK – here’s the best part: our waitress, seeing me flushed and sweaty all of a sudden, hinted about whatever I had just done. I explained. And she told me that she could have just looked me up in the computer and given me the credit. Amazing.

Well, I got a good run in, and I reinforced the problems with the coupons. I’m hoping I’ll finally resist the urge, once and for all!

Over the weekend, over some good homemade Mozza-recipe pizza and Belgian beer, we happened upon the Toyota Solara. This is a car I’ve long despised, but I thought that I was alone in my specific hatred of its design. It turns out that there are other quite aesthetically enlightened members of my family who have also noticed the bland styling of this bastardized Camry.

#1: The Toyota Solara

#1 Ugly: Toyota Solara

Why anyone would choose this car is beside me. It’s not sporty and it’s not practical. It’s not especially cheap or economical. And it’s typically driven by brown-cigarette-smoking ladies of a certain age whose frou-frou pooches ride shotgun. But, this car has also been spotted piloted my straight men in Phoenix, and a certain rabbi in Orange County.

OK, let’s be honest here. Toyota has never really been a leader in the looks department. In fact, this mobile does seem like an evolution of their also-ugly, also bastardized-sedan, Acura Legend.


Solara's Father? Acura Legend Coupe

#2: Mercedes Coupes

The Solara is a tough act to follow – it distances itself from the pack by having no useful purpose whatsoever. But for the ladies with little Snookums with a bow in his hair who need something that shows that their first husband had a little cash, there’s the Mercedes S-class coupe.

Clearly a car where all design was poured into the sedan, and then a butcher modified it remove two doors and appeal to another demographic: the blind.


Coupe d'Ugly

The same staff butcher over at Daimler also had his way with the C-class. Witnesseth:


Daimler Butcher, take two

Good German People! Did you look at these things?

#3 BMW 3-Series

I’m sure I’ll get some pushback on this one, and I agree that the sedan, and even the wagon, of this line are pretty decent looking cars. But, like Benz boys, that coupe is just tooooo looooong. When you cut the doors, cut the length! If people want two doors only – hey? – maybe they don’t have kids? Maybe they rarely use the backseat? Then, you ask, why not get a true sports car? That’s the question of the ages.

Weirdly long lookin

Now, I have to give BMW credit for stealing an old and great American car company idea. They’ve got one line (the 3 series) that comes in convertible, coupe, sedan, and wagon. It’s like a Bayerische Malibu family. Of course, at one point, that Malibu front end was mated to a pickup backend – but don’t even get me started on the lovely El Camino.

#4 Honda Accord Coupe

You’ve gotta give Honda some credit. The Accord coupe looks pretty different than the sedan. They really did redesign it. But you’ve got to take that credit away when you look at the thing.


Enough Said?

You might look at this and think “blah blah blah, whatever.” That’s why Honda added the tail wing as an option! Oh, brother.

#5 Volvo 780 Bertone

This car was truly an enigma. Nothing at all like the sporty Volvo coupes that preceded it, this beast was the province of a certain pre-Eurotrash Euroman who wore windowpane blazers and ascots.

I can’t imagine what the good uomos at Bertone were thinking when they let this project see daylight, but I guess Lotus worked with Isuzu, and Rover with Honda, among other collaborations, so this is par for the course.


Bertone for Tony

This whole discourse makes me think of the pathetic Saab tagline “born from jets.” These coupes are all “born from sedans.” It also make me think, you know what? Those Saab coupes weren’t too bad looking . . .


Quick Dumpling Station Review

I can’t figure out where to review food trucks (Yelp?, FourSquare?) and so I’m posting a quick review here.

Reading Dumpling Station’s Twitter feed, I saw that they were finally making the trek back west from their typical haunts in the Pasadena area. My kids and I have been wanting to try these out, and the time and place worked, so we tooled over to Melrose.

The menu is pretty spare – it’s basically all online. We ordered the chicken, the pork with kimchi, and the veggie.

All three came with the same two sauces: a dipping sauce largely made of soy sauce and probably peanut oil, and a hot sauce that I think was sriracha.

And the verdict it: wouldn’t bother going back, sorry to say.

The veggie was just a mess. I’ve really only had great veggie dumplings a few times (best were in New York at Excellent Dumpling). These were just kind of a mush, with no real character, and way, WAY too much garlic. Not just garlic, but jarred garlic – the kind that has that funky taste from whatever they do to it that robs it of its delicious fresh flavor. Why bother? Fresh garlic is great! Jarred, chopped garlic is just a totally different animal.

Chicken: fine. Nothing special. Not great, not awful. That’s kind of how chicken is, I guess.

Pork and kimchi: Not too bad, but just too ground up; too mealy. I thought I’d get recognizable pork with chunks of cabbage. But this was a homogenous goo inside. No great pork flavor. And no great kimchi flavor either. This was just not like Mandu. Maybe I should have tried the beef and kimchi?

And we also got an order of the garlic wasabi fries. The fries weren’t bad – and fries are easy to mess up. And the wasabi mayo was actually pretty good. But the garlic was the above-mentioned *jarred* garlic, so that was almost all I tasted. Next time, if there is one, I’d get wasabi fries please, hold the garlic.

Granted, I’ve had a lot of dumplings, and my family is particularly enamored of Din Tai Fung, which is a pretty different genre certainly. But we had been looking forward to the Dumpling Station – maybe some good dumplings on the Westside for a change (beyond Mandarette) but it was not to be, I’m afraid. So many food trucks have been simply great (Kogi and EatPhamish being two favorites so far) that I was expecting a little more here.

I posted a gallery of my best pics of Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood at the Hollywood Bowl, June 30, 2009.


Amazing show!

I have a 2007 Audi A4 wagon that’s nearing the end of its lease. As I figure out what car to get next, I’ve been thinking about the problems with this car. Maybe I’m more critical about it since it’s the most expensive car I’ve had, but I think that’s OK. If I’m paying more, I should get more. I’m not sure that I did, and I definitely won’t be spending this much on my next car. Based on this experience, I’m just not sure that there’s a big enough benefit.

Many of the faults of this Audi A4 (it’s a 2007, by the way) stem from the on-board computer system, the RNS-E. This is what you get if you opt for the navigation (about $2000). But it takes on tasks like the radio, and the Bluetooth phone, and it doesn’t absorb these functions well at all.

OK – here’s the list:

  1. Turbo Lag – Wow. Is that really the way this is supposed to be? I don’t need zero-to-60 in under 7 seconds. What I need is zero-to-10. Sometime. Today. I’ve become gutless about pulling out into traffic.
  2. Lack of Driver Memory – Basic memory including seat position and mirror position is all I’m asking for. Most cars with power seats have this. How can this $40,000 car not have this? Ah, but it does have memory in one regard: the heat and AC system. That’s right. When my wife puts her key in, it remembers what temperature she likes. Very useful. Also, my valets can have their own temperature setting. Great. What brilliant mind came up with this?
  3. The Bluetooth Noises, take 1 – Each time I get in the car, when I’m listening to the radio (no choice on that – see below) the sound gets interrupted about five seconds later with a “brring” noise to tell me that my phone has been connected to the car via Bluetooth. Every time. No way to turn this off. Typically, I’m listening to a news story, and I miss something. No way to rewind, of course. And some mind at Audi decided that the icon on the screen showing that the phone is connected isn’t good enough. You also need an audible, non-cancelable alert. Thanks for that.
  4. The Bluetooth Noises, take 2 – Each time I place a call, I get a very, very loud buzz for a few seconds. This happens with three different phones my family uses with this car (all iPhones, to be sure, but I doubt that’s it). It’s so irritating. I grit my teeth each time this happens.
  5. Radio Presets – Presets are there to save time, right? To make changing stations more convenient, right? So I thought. In this car, each time I start the car again, I have to switch to the FM/AM mode on the computer, and then hit memory, and then go back to wherever I was, just to get the preset buttons to work the presets. Turn off the car, and I start from scratch. Otherwise, the preset buttons go through each station on the dial. Yeah, now that’s useful.
  6. Navigation Default – Has anyone ever, ever seen a navigation system in a car that doesn’t default to a ‘map’ view? Well, I’ve got one for ya! This RNS-E defaults to a screen where you can enter an address or do a search or whatever. Changing to the map is another click away. No way to change this default. Is Audi ahead of the curve on this one, and every other car navigation manufacturer on the planet will soon default to a text view? I think not.
  7. MP3 CDs – This car has a six disc changer in the glove compartment. But, for some reason, this will only play CDs in the old audio format. Not MP3s. But you can play an MP3 CD in the navigation system. To do that, you just have to take out the navigation DVD. So then you don’t have navigation. Something’s wrong here if the technology is actually in the car, but not used in both places. Also, the SD slots can play MP3s off SD cards. Don’t even get me started on how complex that is, but suffice it to say it defaults to a track in a subdirectory, until you press the “return” button to move up a directory. It’s always just one click away, with this thing. But why?
  8. The Cup Holder Under the Armrest – I know, it’s a relatively small car. But I think this could have been designed better, somehow. The shifter could be further forward, or the cup holder could be beside it. I’m pretty sure there’s a better answer out there, beyond having to ditch the armrest to put a second cup of coffee in there.
  9. Premium Gas – Given the performance of this car, it should be fine with regular gas. But it gets even worse without the expensive stuff.
  10. Brake Noise – Of course, the dealer blames this on not being able to use asbestos. And they tell me that my brakes are fine and that I just need to jam them hard every now and then to loosen the particles that make the squeak. Again, on a $40,000 car? They need to figure this one out.

When I’m in a better mood about this thing, maybe I’ll write up the top ten things like I like about it. There are certainly some plusses. But, years later, I still have buyer’s remorse. For $10K less, I’ll probably end up with a Passat.

Moved my blog . . . and now fixed it

So I moved my blog from my pokey home server (Mac Mini) to Dreamhost. Much faster. Much more stable. And hopefully my DSL will speed up a bit since the huge amount of traffic I get here won’t slow my home link down.

Of course, I blew it in many ways when I moved the blog. So lots of links and pictures weren’t working for a few weeks until I realized what I had done. Sorry. But I think it’s all back to normal now. Until I update to 2.7. . .

From the vantage point of four days after my half-marathon in Long Beach, certain thoughts have been recurring in my mind about the run. There are always several situations in which you wish you’d performed differently, figuring that a different action would have produced a different result. I don’t really consider myself a competitive person, but my time was slower than a previous time of mine, and I’ve been thinking about why.

One concrete mistake we made that day was in arriving a little too late. By the time you get through traffic (yes, the 710 freeway to Long Beach was completely stopped at 6:30 AM on a Sunday due to the race traffic), then get a parking spot, then wait for the bathroom line, and then enter the crush, you are nowhere near the front. In our case, our times put us in Corral A, up near the front of the pack. They space runners by expected finishing time to try to keep the traffic spreading out over the length of the run, rather than compressing, or forcing runners to pass each other. But we started too far back, so we spent a lot of time (and some energy) passing other runners, or being constrained to running slower than we would have liked. You could argue that running slower saved us energy that we could use later on, but I don’t think it’s a zero-sum situation. I’d have been better off running a bit faster in the beginning, rather than shaving almost a minute off my per-mile time for the second half.

So starting the race at essentially the four minute mark meant that I would need to pass a lot of runners in front of me who intended to run more slowly.

The image that struck me the most during the run was of a man about halfway through the race. As mentioned, I was passing a great deal of people who had stared in front of me. This one man in particular was probably about 60, and he was absolutely drenched with sweat. People definitely sweat different amounts, so this wasn’t surprising – he was probably just the type to sweat more. But as I got closer, I heard him huffing and puffing. When I got a look at his face, it was clear to me that he was operating at peak capacity – really pushing himself. By comparison, this made me realize that I was, in a sense, just phoning it in. If I were to run that hard, I’d have a much better finishing time, and I’d be totally wiped. I’d also get a much better work out. But I just don’t think I have it in me to go at peak capacity like that.

As always, I could have trained more, gotten more sleep the night before, carb-loaded more carefully, etc. But I’m pretty happy with my time. And I had felt that this would be my last run for a while, but, actually, it reinvigorated me, and so I’m ready to go again.

Von Trapp Collection at Barney’s?

Last night, we went to the Sound of Music Singalong at the Hollywood Bowl.

When you see Christopher Plummer on a screen that large with his amazing collection of jackets, you have to wonder, why can’t you get these today? Nothing looks better than having the short Nehru-inspired collar, often of a different color fabric. Except, maybe, his shawl collar pajama jacket with cream silk time – but, alas, I couldn’t find a picture of that.

Barney’s, are you listening?